Recently Sioux Falls Business did this article about apartment availability.

If you go to my zip code, the average 1-bedroom apartment is $970 a month. You would have to make at least $38,000 a year or around $18 an hour to afford this (30% of income).

I heard a rumor recently that 70% of job listings in Sioux Falls pay $15 or less.

It seems in Sioux Falls we have affordability issues with all kinds of things like groceries, housing, and childcare. Maybe Sioux Falls doesn’t have an affordability issue, maybe it has a wage issue?

But don’t bother our local leadership with that issue, because they will tell us that wages should be determined by the FREE market, you know, the FREE market in South Dakota that allows business owning legislators to take government handouts, or that same FREE market that creates special tax districts so developers can buy skywalks and public art, or the millions and millions we give away for parking ramps that will be obsolete within 10-20 years.

While our local governments are quick to throw money at the top and hope it trickles down to the rest of us, they really need to put their foot where the sun doesn’t shine and get businesses to pay living wages, then things like buying a home or even a loaf of bread are a lot less challenging in our community.

The city council has the power and authority to pass policies that would help wage earners in our community, for example, an ordinance that requires all businesses advertising for employment within city limits list their starting wage, or raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour or more.

When we talk about the affordability of our city, it really comes down to what our employers are willing to pay and little else because all this talk about affordability is just a smoke screen to what our real problem is, CRAPPY WAGES!

I was just thinking about this the other day . . . and for me and the good pastor, Sioux Falls City Councilor, Rich Merkouris, to have the same inquisitive thoughts, it was a little eerie.

During the informational Rich asked our housing specialist, Logan Penfield, what was going on with the North Brandon project and Logan responded by saying he wasn’t sure and had to get back to Rich.

Seems a bit odd doesn’t it?

Councilor Merkouris just stepped into the vice chair leadership position a few weeks ago. So now with a few weeks of insider baseball under his belt he seemed to pull this question from the sky . . .

. . . and after doing a long presentation on a housing action plan you would think Mr. Penfield would have the answer to that question on the tip of his tongue. But Mr. Penfield has experience in good old Washington, a place where it is best to ignore the hard questions.

I was thinking about the project because after all the fanfare you would have thought there would have been a ribbon cutting already with dirt moving? Instead a staffer from the administration (who is in charge of projects like this) hands over a big fat I don’t know with a shoulder shrug.

While the administration may think it is Sioux Falls ONE it is more like Sioux Falls IDK.

It seems the numbers for residential housing are way down, and developers are pushing towards building apartments;

The most noticeable drop is in new housing construction, which totaled $34.6 million, or 77 single-family homes, through April. Last year, it was $98.2 million, or 281 homes, and in 2021 it was $110.8 million, or 321 homes.

What is even more shocking is how the average price of a home in Sioux Falls is $100k more in just one year; 2021 ($345K) 2022 ($350K) 2023 ($450K). With an average mortgage rate of $4,000 a month. Real affordable? Huh? You would have to have a yearly household income of around $150k to afford this.

It is becoming more and more expensive to own a home in Sioux Falls.

Yes, that is the daily rent, for the month it will cost you $5,950. I purchased my home 20 years ago, before I bought the house the rent I paid for a nice 1-bedroom behind U-Haul in Pettigrew Heights was $350 a month which included gas and garbage service. For $5,950 a month you could pay a mortgage on a 1 million dollar home. You can rent a decent hotel room in Sioux Falls for about $100 a night. Heck even Hotel Phillips only 2 blocks from this loft charges between $140-$220 a night. An VRBO or Air BNB is even cheaper. This 3 bedroom short term rental in McKennan Park will run you about $162 a night. Even if you had 3 people renting the loft, they would still have to pay $2,000 a month in rent. In fact what you would pay for rent in a year for this place ($70K+) was more then the original purchase price of my home.

Normally I wouldn’t give two rips about what a wealthy property owner/developer in DTSF charges for rent, I’m a free market person and if they can get that kind of ‘rent’ money, good for you. Where I take issue is that this building received a facade easement grant* (basically the city gives private developers money to fix up their historical facades with little oversight). I asked a councilor recently if the half-Inch faux brick that they glued on the front of Lucky’s facade was considered historic? Faux brick has been a trend lately, but I still think it looks fake. I thought one of the requirements of historic restoration was for it to be actually historic, you know, like the fiberglass bulstrades on the Pavilion’s new roof.

Besides the atrocious monthly rent, this really doesn’t make the city look very good when they are handing out TIFs for condo parking ramps and facade grants DTSF but on the other hand are promoting(?) affordable and accessible housing.

*The facade easement program was mysteriously and suddenly re-instated by the urging of Central District Councilor Curt Soehl. No surprise the 1st recipients for the grants were the former campaign treasurer for Soehl (for the 9th and Grange coffee shop that he is restoring) and the investment group that owns the Lucky’s loft who has given thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Mayor TenHaken and his various supported candidates. The program is nothing but a pay to play payback to these campaign contributors. The program was originally ended because there really is NO need for taxpayers to be propping up these private developers.

The city really needs to get out of the wealthy developer welfare program business and start incentivizing affordable housing DTSF with programs that help build housing density while focusing on the individual property and small rental owners. Instead the city’s solution is to build slab on grade tract homes in a cornfield in Southern Brandon. Even a chicken playing tic-tac-toe is smarter than that.

UPDATE: In 2017 Rapid City used a very small TIF to support affordable housing (H/T Mike Zitterich). It was 5 years ago, but for a $26,500 TIF the developer was able to build 5 Town Homes – the cheapest with the price tag of $109K. Even with inflationary adjustments, that same place would only be about $130-150K today. It was built on a blighted empty lot.

We could legally do this in the core of the city, and we could do it for multiple properties.

Here is a video of the project;

Not only is Omaha building density in the core, they are doing it for affordable rents;

According to, the average cost of an Omaha one-bedroom is about $1,000 a month.

“The buildings or apartments will range from $450 all the way to $750. We have studios, one-bedroom apartments and two and three-bedroom apartments for families,” said Christian Gray, executive director of inCOMMON.

The Bristol will have 64 units and the Georgia Row House will have 11.

This is what I thought was promised before the election, then the city did a 180 and decided to build slab houses in SW Brandon.

“Its proximity to transportation, to job centers, to downtown. It doesn’t isolate people into deep parts of the community and exclude them from those opportunities,” said Gray.

Yeah, what a concept! Building affordable housing close to transportation resources! During a presser the other day about the zoo merger, the Mayor brought up our supposed competition with Omaha. Yup, in Omaha they are more concerned about helping their low income workforce than they are about animal prisons.